Day: June 6, 2016

House panel wants answers on DigitalGlobe licensure delay

Before (first ) and after (second) photos of the 2014 fires in Happy Camp, California that show how SWIR satellite imagery can help customers see through smoke and wildfires. Credit: DigitalGlobe.

WASHINGTON – Leaders from the House’s Science, Space and Technology committee want to know why it’s taken the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration more than three years to decide whether DigitalGlobe can sell higher-resolution infrared imagery data from their Worldview-3 satellite.

In a June 6 letter, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the committee chairman, and Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), the chairman of the space subcommittee, asked the Commerce Department to explain delays in issuing DigitalGlobe a license to sell high-resolution infrared data and when the agency expects to issue a final decision. The Commerce Department oversees NOAA.

NOAA regulations require the Commerce Department to make a decision within 120 days of receiving a licensing request or to inform the applicant of any outstanding issues. DigitalGlobe submitted the request in May 2013.

The Short Wave Infrared (SWIR) imager, built by Exelis, is one of three instruments on DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-3 satellite, which launched in 2014. When fully-utilized, the SWIR images allow customers to determine which materials are used in building construction, to see through smoke and clouds, and to more accurately characterize rock structures. It also offers a wide swath of applications to commercial users, ranging from insurers to archaeologists.

The SWIR imager can produce 3.7-meter resolution data, company officials say, but DigitalGlobe is only licensed to sell that data to the U.S. government. Non-government customers can purchase 7.5-meter resolution data.

With NOAA as the licensing authority, several federal agencies, including the Commerce, State, Defense and Treasury departments, are reviewing DigitalGlobe’s request and studying the issue for possible national security implications. It is unclear when a decision will be made.

A NOAA spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Walter Scott, DigitalGlobe’s chief technical officer and executive vice president, first mentioned the delay during a May 17 presentation at the GEOINT conference. The lag in approval has stifled how industry can discover new uses for the data, he said.

“DigitalGlobe appreciates the continuous efforts of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to address the years-long delay in the U.S. Government’s consideration of DigitalGlobe’s request to sell its native-resolution shortwave infrared satellite imagery,” he said in a June 6 email to SpaceNews. “This is just the latest in a long line of regulatory decisions – and indecisions – that have hindered U.S. industry’s competitiveness in the global commercial remote sensing market.

“Overly restrictive regulations prevented the emergence of a domestic radar imaging satellite industry, and Canadian, German, and Italian firms now dominate this market.”

In the June 6 letter to Penny Pritzker, the secretary of the Commerce Department, Smith and Babin asked for all communications with DigitalGlobe on the issue, a timeline of actions, and a list of departments that have not yet made a decision on the license.

They also ask for “an explanation of why NOAA has so drastically prolonged and delayed the process,” according to a press release from the committee.

A response from Pritzker is due by June 24.

DigitalGlobe officials credit Pritzker for personally stepping in and helping the company receive permission from NOAA in 2014 …read more

Our favorite spatula

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My wife likes this nylon spatula so much that she bought a second one. It’s made from nylon and has just the right amount of flex. It has a very thin edge that slides right under whatever you are cooking in the pan or on the griddle – no more fried eggs with broken yolks. We got rid of the silicone spatula we’d been using because it acquired a soapy smell (has that happened to anyone else?).

Zyliss Nylon Slotted Spatula ($5 on Amazon)

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Patricia Grace Smith, former head of FAA space office, passes away

Patti Grace Smith

WASHINGTON — Patricia Grace Smith, a former head of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s commercial space transportation office who helped foster the growth of the industry, unexpectedly passed away June 5.

Smith had been battling pancreatic cancer for about a year, according to those familiar with her passing. Her death took the industry by surprise, as she had not widely shared her diagnosis, and appeared in good health at events as recently as April.

Smith spent 28 years in government service, the last 11 of which she served as the associate administrator for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation before retiring in early 2008. Smith took the job shortly after the office, which previously was an independent organization within the Department of Transportation, was subsumed within the FAA.

“Patti was the first real FAA Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation,” said Jim Muncy, principal of space policy consultancy PoliSpace. Smith, he said, had to work to win support for her small office within the much larger FAA hierarchy. “The rest of the FAA didn’t always think much of their new spacey colleagues,” he recalled, “but they grew to respect Patti’s tireless advocacy of the future of U.S. commercial space transportation.”

Smith “made huge contributions to establishing the office’s legitimacy and fostering effective relationships with all pertinent stakeholders,” said Courtney Stadd, who was director of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation in the mid-1980s. He was among those shocked by her passing. “I just saw Patti a couple of months ago and outwardly seemed her usual wonderful self.”

“Those of us that had the privilege to know or work with Patti know how special of a person she was. Her leadership at the FAA helped transform our industry,” said Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an industry group.

Smith ran the office, also known by the acronym AST, during a time of transition for the U.S. commercial space transportation industry, marked by the rise of entrepreneurial ventures in both orbital and suborbital spaceflight that are today widely known as “NewSpace.” Those ventures placed regulatory demands on the FAA as they sought to perform activities, such as reentries and licensing of inland spaceports, not anticipated by existing laws and regulations.

Muncy praised Smith for leading the development of new regulations in 1999 covering the reentry of reusable launch vehicles, as well as new regulations in 2005 covering commercial human spaceflight. He also credited her with leading work on a compromise definition of a suborbital rocket that was later codified into the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004.

That definition of suborbital rocket was critical since there was a debate at the time whether such vehicles, like Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne, should be regulated by Smith’s office or by the FAA’s aviation arm, which many in the spaceflight field feared would have resulted in far more stringent regulations that would have stifled the industry’s growth.

The compromise definition kept suborbital rockets within AST’s oversight. Smith’s work, Muncy said, “enabled the Ansari X Prize contest to lead to a real …read more

BuzzFeed axes a $1.3-million ad deal with the RNC over Trump

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Before Trump became the Republican nominee, BuzzFeed and the Republican National Committee had struck a $1.3-million deal to run ads in the fall before the general election. But then came Trump, and it looks like his racist comments of the last week were the last straws. According to Politico:

In an email to staff on Monday, BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti explained that in April, the RNC and BuzzFeed signed an agreement to “spend a significant amount on political advertisements slated to run during the Fall election cycle.” But since Trump became the nominee his campaign has proven themselves to be “directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States,” because of proposed bans on Muslim immigration and comments about descendants of immigrants, among other policies.

Read the full story here.

Photo by Michael Vadon

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Rude Cakes - a book about a two-layer cake with an attitude

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Rude Cakes

by Rowboat Watkins

Chronicle Books

2015, 40 pages, 9.4 x 9.4 x 0.5 inches

$13 Buy a copy on Amazon

Visual puns, illustrative foreshadowing, relatable characters, and second chances: these are the ingredients that make Rude Cakes such a treat. In a world where the background is fairly barren save for a few flowers that sprout side by side with candy canes and lollipops, Rowboat Watkins’s pouty pink pastry, a two-layer cake with an attitude, takes center stage and shows us how not to behave. Luckily, we also meet a giant cyclops who inadvertently sets the rude cake straight.

Rude Cakes is not only a fun read, it’s cathartic. Grown-ups reading this book aloud to their kids will laugh in commiseration with the pastry parents’ plight of reigning in their frosted tot. For kids, there’s plenty of opportunity for indignant head shaking at the cake’s social foibles, though it’s nearly impossible to do without cracking a smile. Afterall, not even a dessert can be sweet all of the time. And just when you think that cranky cake is going to get what’s coming to him, along comes the giant cyclops to lead by example, all the while making a mistake of his own that literally gives the cake a new outlook on what it feels like not to be heard. For a book without any people in it, every character and snippet of dialogue is truly and hilariously human.

On the surface, this is a funny little picture book about learning how to behave. And even on that level, it’s great. Everyone loves a read-aloud that includes a good yell or two, and Watkins’ narrative illustrations help teach preschoolers to read both images and social cues. But after a few reads, it’s clear just how smart and thoughtful this story really is. In very few words and completely without preaching, Rude Cakes lets us laugh our way through a lesson on social skills and self reflection.

– Marykate Smith Despres

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Scanned

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Avant Garde magazine ran for 16 issues from January 1968 to July 1971. It had a small print run, but is treasured today for its gorgeous design by art director Herb Lubalin. It was edited by photo-journalist Ralph Ginzburg, who was indicted by U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the 1960s for distributing obscene literature through the mails. This website has scans of most of the issues. I would love to have the dead tree version of the complete run.

Avant Garde is a seminal, but somewhat overlooked by a wider public, magazine, which broke taboos, rattled some nerves and made a few enemies. The magazine was the brainchild of Ralph Ginzburg, an eager and zealous publisher, even if the path that led to Avant Garde wasn’t so straightforward. It represents the third major collaboration between Ralph Ginzburg and Herb Lubalin, the magazine’s talented art director. The two previous magazines came to unexpected demise due to their candor and provocativeness, that landed them into legal trouble.

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The Bright-Eye telescope is funded!

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Norman Sperling’s fantastic re-imagined AstroScan telescope, the Bright-Eye, has been funded. Thank you all for participating!

Years ago, I asked Mark for a recommendation on a good at-home telescope. He sent me a link to the AstroScan. It looked so cool I immediately bought it. Luckily it is also a damn fine device for viewing the skies!

A few years later the AstroScan was discontinued. This was sad. Lots of people loved the scope! Its inventor, Norman Sperling, crowdfunded an updated release called the Bright Eye. Now you can order a Bright-Eye from Norman direct, info is on the KS page.

You guys! Boing Boing readers! You helped make it possible. Thank you!

Dear Jason,

Thanks largely to your huge boost, the Bright-Eye Kickstarter
succeeded. BoingBoing was by far the greatest source of backers in
the first week, and second only to Kickstarter itself overall.

I am now busily setting up craft production for the first batch of
telescopes. If a major backer shows up, I can quickly convert to
factory production.

Please tell me a postal address to which I can send your promised
handwritten thanks.

Best wishes,

Norm

The ‘handwritten thanks’ is the Kickstarter funding thank you for the few dollars I personally put in. I already have an Astroscan, and base, and didn’t need another.

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GOP Trump haters who are now supporting Trump

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Daniel Bukszpan of Fortune compiled a list of quotes about GOP apparatchiks who said very bad things about Donald Trump but now think he would make a wonderful president.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

September 15, 2015: “Donald Trump is a madman who must be stopped.”

May 8, 2016: “I am planning to vote for Donald Trump.”

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul

January 25, 2016: “Donald Trump is a delusional narcissist and an orange-faced windbag. A speck of dirt is way more qualified to be president.”

May 5, 2016: “You know, I’ve always said I’ll endorse the nominee.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

January 4, 2016: “Showtime is over. We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief. Showmanship is fun, but it is not the kind of leadership that will truly change America.”

February 26, 2016: “There is no one better prepared to provide America with the strong leadership that it needs both at home and around the world than Donald Trump.”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio

March 4, 2016: “Donald Trump has been perhaps the most vulgar — no I don’t think perhaps — the most vulgar person to ever aspire to the presidency in terms of how he’s carried out his candidacy.”

May 10, 2016: ”I signed a pledge, put my name on it, and said I would support the Republican nominee and that’s what I intend to do.”

Utah Representative Chris Stewart

March 7, 2016: “He’s our Mussolini… As a Republican, I’m telling you: Donald Trump does not represent Republican ideals.”

May 7, 2016: “While Mr. Trump wasn’t my first choice, we must move forward and unite to defeat Hillary Clinton.”

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US Navy develops diving helmet with HUD

via US Navy

The future is here! US Navy frogmen will no longer fumble with clumsy underwater dive computers, or GPS. I’m pretty sure AquaLung will acquire the US Navy to get ahold of this technology, and will be marketing it at local dive shops soon.

Via the Tech Times:

Professional divers could use any help they can get to make their work easier and more streamlined.

The Navy acknowledges their need: it has built an underwater head-up display (HUD) prototype that allows divers to check their location and tap into sonar data by looking straight ahead, thus eliminating the need for a smartwatch display.

The leader of the research team, Dennis Gallagher, says that “a capability similar to something from an Iron Man movie” is in store to those who will use the new helmet.

To put it shortly, all the relevant information can be viewed “within the helmet.”
Surface sources, such as a ship, can send out information to the Divers Augmented Vision Display (DAVD). Future improvements to the device could bring sonar sensors mounted on the helmet, making it even easier to collect and display info.

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Traffic Simulation lets you create jams and experience the joy of abstract human misery

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Traffic-Simulation.de is exactly what it says it is: a depiction of traffic that you can toy with and bend to your will. A useful reminder that no matter how easy you make it for humans (at least modeled ones) they will turn even the most benign cooperative herd activity into a snarling mess of opportunism and incapacitating self-interest. …read more

For 50 years, a London woman made a living selling the correct time.

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As recently as 1939, a London woman made her living by setting her watch precisely at the Greenwich observatory and “carrying the time” to her customers in the city. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll meet Ruth Belville, London’s last time carrier, who conducted her strange occupation for 50 years.

We’ll also sample the colorful history of bicycle races and puzzle over a stymied prizewinner.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon!

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Boars, Gore, and Swords podcast recaps Game of Thrones S6E07, "The Broken Man"

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As season six of HBO’s Game of Thrones continues, characters make returns both expected and incredibly unexpected. Each week following the show, Boars, Gore, and Swords recaps everything that goes down in the world of Westeros. For this week’s “The Broken Man,” Ivan and Red discuss skateboarding preachers, Margaery’s manipulations, Yara’s immersion therapy, and how Lady Mormont is the greatest character on the show even if she’s only ten.

To catch up on previous seasons, the A Song of Ice And Fire books, and other TV and movies, check out the BGaS archive. You can find them on Twitter @boarsgoreswords, like their Facebook fanpage, and email them. If you want access to extra episodes and content, you can donate to the Patreon.

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Muhammad Ali had a personal magic trick teacher

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I had no idea Muhammad Ali loved magic. This is a great story about a friendship between a young magician living with the aftereffects of polio, and the world’s greatest athlete.

From Vox:

[Terry] La Sorda took the dare, opened Ali’s pack of cards, and asked Ali to pick a card, any card. Then he gave Ali the deck to put the card back in it without telling the magician where it went. Ali turned his huge back and shuffled the deck.

“He turned around saying ‘You’re never gonna find this card, you’re going to make a fool out of yourself!'” La Sorda recalled.

Then Ali looked up and saw his card dangling from La Sorda’s mouth. Ali dropped the deck in shock.

“The cards fell on the floor and I thought he was going to hit me,” La Sorda said. “One of those huge fists would hit me. Then, suddenly, he’s on the ground, the robe all around him, picking up all the cards … [saying] ‘put another one on me. I like that!'”

For the next two hours, the two men were nose to nose, as La Sorda performed one trick after the other.

La Sorda said that Ali told him that he had asked professional magicians in Las Vegas to teach him magic before, but no one took him seriously. That first night, Ali asked La Sorda who his manager was. La Sorda didn’t have a manager; he wasn’t a professional magician. La Sorda was, instead, an engineer, a burgeoning metallurgist, having first worked with steel when trying to fix a pair of broken polio braces when he was 13 years old.

Ali was surprised, and asked La Sorda how much he made as an engineer. He told him, and Ali said he would double it if he came to work with him, traveling and teaching him magic.

Here’s Ali giving an impromptu performance to some pro wrestlers at an airport:

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Hear Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali's spoken word album from 1963

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In August 1963, Cassius Clay released a spoken word/musical LP titled “I Am The Greatest.” This was before he became the heavyweight champion of the world and renamed himself Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam. Here is the title track from that album, which was also released as two different 7″ singles. The first single’s b-side was a song called “Will The Real Sonny Liston Please Fall Down,” (released after Ali beat Liston), and the second was a cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” both below:

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"Prolific litigant" bought $40 used printer then sued seller for $30,000

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Doug Costello, 66, sold a printer on craigslist for $40. The buyer—described as a “prolific, abusive litigant”—alleged it was broken and sued him claiming astronomical damages. The resulting artisanal interstate legal snarl has cost Costello $12,000 so far. USA Today reports on a mess that’s still not over after 7 years.

The printer’s buyer was Gersh Zavodnik, a 54-year-old Indianapolis man known to many in the legal community as a frequent lawsuit filer who also represents himself in court. The Indiana Supreme Court said the “prolific, abusive litigant” has brought dozens of lawsuits against individuals and businesses, often asking for astronomical damages. Most, according to court records, involve online sales and transactions.

Small claims court wasn’t interested, but Zavodnik’s pro se actions were relentless. Even though they were insane, that’s the point: Costello’s failure to respond meant a default verdict for the plaintiff.

Zavodnik also had sent Costello two more requests for admissions. One asked Costello to admit that he conspired with the judge presiding over the case, and that he was liable for more than $300,000. Another one requested Costello to admit that he was liable for more than $600,000.

And so was necessitated the hiring of very expensive lawywers. Zavodnik appears to be a master of plinking the legal system until he shops his way to a useful-enough judge.

Wuertz said the case went through several Marion County judges, many of whom recused themselves. At one point, Zavodnik sought to have a judge removed, and the Supreme Court appointed a special judge from Boone County. Finally, in March 2015 — six years after Costello sold the printer — Special Judge J. Jeffrey Edens issued a ruling. He awarded Zavodnik a judgment of $30,044.07 for breach of contract.

The ruling was overturned on appeal: “the trial court abused its discretion,” wrote Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik, issuing an award “with no basis in reality” using logic that “would have granted Zavodnik a judgment for $600,000, or $6,000,000, or $60,000,000, if Zavodnik had simply linked such an amount to the phrase “for breaching the legally binding contract.””

Seven years of this.

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Enter to win a $1,000 Steam shopping spree!

If you’re a hardcore gamer, then Steam likely occupies more of your time than you’d care to admit. With its endless collection of recent and time-honored hits, you could spend a fortune building your game library and still only scratch the surface of what’s offered.

So…why don’t you spend Boing Boing’s money instead?

You will if you win our $1,000 Steam Giveaway. Be the lucky winner, and you’ll instantly have access to $1,000 in Steam cash, ready for you to start gobbling up titles from any of the 3,500 games covering every genre of gaming.

How do you win? Just sign up via Facebook or email, and then be that lucky person who gets their name randomly selected. You can even earn an extra shot at the big prize if a friend of yours (21 or older) also enters by following the Additional Entry instructions on the screen.

Enter now — registration ends soon.

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Britain meets its "first 101-year-old court defendant"

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The Guardian reports that Ralph Clarke, facing charges of child abuse dating to the 20th century, is believed to be Britain’s oldest court defendant.

Clarke, who was born in March 1915, is alleged to have committed 17 indecent assaults, 12 offences of indecency with a child, and two attempted serious sexual offences between 1974 and 1983. During a 40-minute court appearance, Clarke turned down the offer of a hearing loop, telling the court clerk his hearing aid had a new battery.

None of the articles I found sourced their claim, though. ‘Believed to be’ is reporterese for ‘just guessing.’ Outside the UK, Clarke’s seemingly beat by 102-year-old Massachusetts murder suspect Laura Lundquist, but it’s not clear if she ever appeared in court (she was charged and subject to hearings, but did not have to face trial due to dementia.)

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John Oliver buys and forgives $15M in medical debt, illustrates horrors of America's debt-collectors

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John Oliver now holds the American record for largest single giveaway in history, doubling Oprah’s “you get a car!” record — but Oliver did it by forming a debt-collection agency and buying up the debt of Americans who’d defaulted on the sky-high expenses from life-threatening illnesses, then forgiving the debts.
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Stanford rapist's dad says jail time is "a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action"

Convicted rapist Brock Turner

The father of Brock Turner, convicted of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, told the court that imprisonment would be “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action

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Turner, 20, faced up to 14 years in prison; prosecutors asked for 6 years; judge Aaron Persky gave him 6 months; and he’ll be out in weeks. Persky deemed that a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on him. Dan Turner’s letter, described as “impossibly offensive,” also claims that the rape was not violent.

But at least you know how long it lasted, and where the boy got his problem from.

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Luxembourg to invest over $200 million in homegrown space mining industry

The Luxembourg government's backing for space mining ventures includes an initial $225 million in seed money for R&D and co-financing. One early investment will be in Deep Space Industries' Prospector-X nano-satellite to test space-mining technologies. Credit: Deep Space Industries

The government of Luxembourg plans to invest more than $200 million in an effort to become the Silicon Valley of space mining.

At a press conference Friday, Luxembourg’s prime minister and deputy prime minister announced the government has set aside 200 million euros ($225 million) in initial investment in its spaceresources.lu initiative.

Those funds will go towards research and development projects as well as taking equity stakes in companies that set up operations there.

Both Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources, the two leading U.S.-based companies involved in space resources, have said they will set up their European operations there. Luxembourg is also planning legislation that would give legal protection to space mining companies. [SpaceNews]


More News

Russia launched a satellite to measure the shape of the Earth Saturday. A Rockot booster lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Saturday and placed the Geo-IK 2 satellite, also known as Cosmos 2517, into a polar orbit. The spacecraft, operated by the Russian military, is designed to measure the size and shape of the Earth. The launch had raised concerns in Canada because a Rockot stage was planned to splash down near Canadian waters, but there were no immediate reports of any incidents from that reentry. [Spaceflight Now]

Several former defense officials have endorsed an effort by Sen. John McCain to limit use of the RD-180 engine. The officials, who include former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and former CIA Director Michael Hayden, argued in a letter that there is now “an American industrial base with multiple providers that can produce All-American-made rocket engines.” McCain has sought to limit the use of Russian-built RD-180 engines in a defense authorization bill, while the House version of the bill would allow greater use of the engine. [Bloomberg]

ViaSat has won a contract to provide satellite communications for Air Force One. The Defense Information Systems Agency awarded the contract, worth up to $73 million, to ViaSat to cover Ka- and Ku-band for Air Force One and other aircraft that fly senior government officials. The contract includes an option for an additional year of service to run through the end of May 2018. [SpaceNews]

A company competing in the Google Lunar X Prize unveiled a new lunar lander design. In a presentation at the Berlin Air Show, Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic said its Peregrine lander could carry between 35 and 265 kilograms of payload to the lunar surface, depending on the launch vehicle used and amount of propellant on board. Astrobotic also announced partnerships with Airbus Defence and Space, who is providing engineering support, and DHL, who will be its official logistics provider. Astrobotic is one of 16 teams competing for the Google Lunar X Prize, although the company emphasized its business plan is not based on winning the competition. [SpaceNews]

Moon Express is closer to winning government approval for a lunar landing mission. The company, also competing in the Google Lunar X Prize, submitted a …read more

Monsters from The Grudge and The Ring square off for first pitch at Japanese baseball game

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A promo for “Sadako vs. Kayako,” a forthcoming movie in which the monsters from J-horror classics The Ring and The Grudge fight one another, saw the two of them playing out the ceremonial first pitch at a Nippon-Ham Fighters baseball game, with The Ring’s Sadako pitching a 96km/h ball to The Grudge‘s Kayako, who handed off running duties to Toshio.

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Britons! The Snoopers Charter is being debated today! Tweet your MP!

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Today, Parliament is debating the Snoopers Charter, a wide-ranging mass-scale domestic surveillance law that allows government agencies to peer into the most intimate details of your life, conscripting internet and technology companies as participants in surveillance, with only the thinnest veneer of checks and balances and accountability for the inevitable abuse.
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